Mursidev had remained at the cliff edge the whole day, showing no intent to leave despite the onset of night. Having expended himself using the forest’s little remaining magic ability to inspect the events below, he rested against a tree, eyes closed and snoring softly. The sweat that had made his neck and facial fur glisten in the scorching Sun had gone, replaced by waterfall mist that had risen on the wind. The sound of footfalls did not stir him.
The leader’s snoring continued unabated. The figure knelt and shook one of the bear’s large shoulders.
“Wake up, Mursidev.”
His eyes opened slowly, squinting at the source of his disruption. As his eyes finally focused in the dark, he saw another bear, holding a plate of food out to him.
“My apologies, Athwale. I must have dozed off.” He gratefully accepted the proffered wooden plate, his stomach loudly grumbling at the sight of fresh salmon, green leaves and acorns.
Athwale sat next to his leader, looking out to where the darkness hid the Serengi. “Anything of interest happening with the cats?”
Mursidev shook his head as he took his first bite into the fish. “The Tigrisians were doing a lot of posturing, while the Leothites seemed bemused by the whole situation. If Nemeses is half the leader he seems, he would be considering a night-time strike against a foe worn down by the day’s heat.”
“Do you think the Tigrisians have a chance?”
“One can never tell. It was thought unlikely that the Tigrisians could be removed from the Enkan four decades ago, yet the Leothites found a way to. Arrogance always is a risk, which the lions seem to be heading towards.”
The subordinate bear took in his leader’s words. “Should we be involved?”
Mursidev levelled a cold gaze at him. “We have our hands full with the Cursed Ones, without getting ourselves involved in another conflict. Let the tribes below sort out their issues on their own.”
“But the Leothites have attacked us before. You would not return the favour?”
“No. They were never a considerable threat, when compared to our subterranean troubles.”
Athwale gave him a sly grin. “Who’s being arrogant now?”
A solid elbow to his ribs from his leader answered. “Very true. Never fall into the trap of self-importance and laxness, for it is a slippery slope.”
The rush of another set of footsteps turned the pair’s head towards the forest. Another bear approached, wearing a bright red cloth robe.
Mursidev rose, placing a pair of acorns in his mouth as he did so. He savoured the flavour as the figure continued their path to them. When they reached him and Athwale, they bowed in deference.
“Rise, Dubu. Why do you hurry?”
The bear rose, breathing heavily. “We have received a message from the group within the Gumoto.”
Mursidev’s forehead furrowed. “What do they say?”
“Something seems amiss. After battling the initial foes during their descent, the numbers of Cursed Ones whittled away to almost nothing. The one hundred broke off into groups of twenty, and each group said that they were lucky to come across a handful of enemies.”
“I do not believe for a moment that we are lowering their numbers considerably. Send a message into Gumoto, and tell two groups to focus on investigating what is happening.”
Dubu bowed before turning back to the forest and ran off at a fast pace.
Athwale considered his leader’s concerned expression. “Their offensive numbers had never been known to drop. However many we killed, they were replaced swiftly. What do you think is happening?”
Mursidev shook his head. “Maybe they are gathering their forces for a concentrated attack, which the hundred warriors in Gumoto would be powerless against. Once we receive new intelligence from the team down there, we can figure out their plan and how to address it.” He handed the empty bowl back to Athwale. “Thank you for the meal; I lost track of time while focusing on the Enkan.”
“It is well into the night. Come back to the settlement and get some proper rest, so you have a working mind tomorrow.”
The leader began to comply, but he turned his head back to the cliff edge. “You go back without me. I will return soon.”
“See that you do. We all rely on you.” Athwale followed Dubu’s track back into the vast pillars of wood.
Mursidev walked towards the edge, waving his hands as he began his incantation. “Roho, unipe joto maono.”
Within the air-traced rectangle, the scene took on many cold shades of dark blue. Moving his hands to take in the Enkan far below, he could see figures glowing with intense shades of orange and yellow. As he flicked his thumbs and index fingers outwards, the vision magnified upon the scene below. A pair of stationary figures were above the main gates, while many others were stationed near the Enkan’s fortified perimeter.
The bear shook his head. “The Leothites have become lazy. Hyrcurian and his followers may have a chance after all.”
He moved his arms through the air, holding their rectangular form in place as he surveyed other portions of within the Enkan. To his surprise, where the forms outside the wall seemed to be taking interest, a group of forms inside the walls were seemingly watching them.
“The Tigrisians are searching for weaknesses, but Nemeses is no fool. There may be structural weakness to the wall, but his forces have them well scouted.”
Suppressing a yawn, Mursidev knew he should follow Athwale’s advice.
The magnified vision within his hands vanished. Rubbing his eyes with the back of his hands, he began his trek back to the settlement. The opening events of the battle below could wait for a night.
– U –